STAR TREK Beyond Forever – Part 1 chapter 5 A Long Right, a Left Slide and a Bold Section that’s Tube City

15 01 2017

In their second year at Starfleet Academy, Jim Kirk got Gary Mitchell busted by the San Fransisco branch of San Angeles Vice. The details weren’t important… largely because Jim told it differently every time. In one version, the three women involved were desperate dilithium miners’ wives, in another a trio of self-important, self-obsessed drop dead gorgeous Cadets from influential families and better equipped to be holo’fashion models. The version believed most likely true got to be that way because of its outright puerile popularity due to Jim’s vulgar imagination and his command over humor of the foulest taste….

The natives of the Barzini sector’s one habitable world, humanoids who looked and seemed made of a child’s-toy, stretchable rubber, and bearing lightless eyes in sagging faces, regularly brought a carnival of distinct acrobats, a pleasantly self-described “freak show,” to the moon cities of Earth’s outlying planets. Barzeens, generally, were extremely, impossibly dextrous by human standards; acrobats could assume positions still deemed deviant, even sexually criminal, in certain human circles. It amused Jim that since his legend had begun to take hold through the Federation, there echoed this “true story” of his appealing to the Court on Io to show mercy on an unknown depraved fellow Cadet and rescued said Cadet from the ignominy of permanent Academy expulsion and a year of hard labor at the Hanks’ Basin on Luna. Even Jim had had a laugh at the latest variation he’d heard in Frisco during the year spent mentally and physically recovering and readying his starship for her historic mission; it involved the unnamed Cadet, the seemingly long forgotten Gary Mitchell, and an elaborate set of harnesses and pulleys provided by the hermaphroditic Barzeens. Jim couldn’t resist Gary’s legacy of bawdy lore even after all these years and corrected the Academy T.A. telling the story as if she’d been there: it wasn’t the harnesses and pulleys that got his friend tossed in the civvie can, it was what he did with the bullwhip and the cheap plastic Devil’s mask.

 

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“We say again, unknown submersible, this is American Navy vessel USS La Fayette, a nuclear armed submarine,” a young man’s voice squawked over the futz of the Nautilus’ intercom. “We are a nuclear armed submarine. We order you to surface and prepare to be boarded.”

Kirk turned an ear toward the bridge’s speaker. There was just a moment of swish-swash then a heavy mechanical click and the same voice as before… “This the US Navy, nuclear armed submarine USS La Fayette.” The slight change in intonation, rhythm – this wasn’t a spacecraft with its auto-signals run on “repeat”; there was some kid on the other side of the line, from Tonawanda upstate New York or Huntigdon, Pennsylvania who was either bored out his mind or scared brainless. Kirk looked across the cramped bridge and found himself the only one aboard paying heed to the warning from the now-adversarial American Navy sub. A silent alarm sounded in his head; a low-ranking comm op could let slip his Commander’s real intentions through the thoughtless, simple stressing of the wrong word; that was one reason why Jim had long valued Uhura’s forthright skills – she’d known him long enough and so well, she could speak Klingoni or even enough of the inside lingo of Tellarite mobsters and translate her Captain’s aggravation bordering on hostility into professional charm.

Most of the bridge crew were either attending to menial work details while the officers and the Agents, Maria and Two-Oh-One whom she had called Robert, were gathered around a high table and the plastic map the Nautilus Captain had unrolled across it. Captain Gary Mitchell- – my God, Jim thought
.
Jim hadn’t waited for his Agents after the La Fayette’s torpedo detonated intentionally off-target, a warning shot; he rushed from the wardroom, down the short metal stairs, through the tight, oppressive corridor to the only room producing noise and the voice he recognized ordering his crew to “cut the bullshit and knock off the chatter. Damage report! Martini, go below and see if we’re breached.”

Jim, stopped the young tough in the doorway as Robert and Maria crowded in from behind.

“Man your station, kid.,” Jim said.

Barely turning around, just twisting his head over his left shoulder, Gary Mitchell smiled at an old friend.

“Hello, Jim! You have something to say?”

Kirk ignored the loaded nature of the question, assuming – – correctly – – he was being asked for his reasoning in interfering with another man’s crew.

“That torpedo,” Jim said, as the young crewman turned away allowing Kirk to reach overhead, grab a cold water pipe and half-walk, half-swing through the pile-up of control panels and glass marker boards that comprised the twelve man attempt at a bridge set-up, “It detonated a hundred yards away, my guess.”

“The proverbial shot across the bow….”

“So unless this…. submersible of yours isn’t built as badly as it appears and it’s made out of Gorgonzola – -”

“Those clatters and bangs you likely heard?”

“The torpedo’s shrapnel?” Kirk glanced upwards, thinking of the bolted and patched together hull he’d seen as he was drawn to the vessel. “Tough little mother.”

“I was just sending Mister Martini down there to double-check. Better to play it safe.”

“You? Playing safe?”

Mitchell shrugged as Jim came up to him.

He is Gary, Jim stressed to himself. He was older than Jim by four months, born in October of twenty-two thirty-two; both of them weren’t even thirty yet. But Gary’s longish black hair was already showing gray and strongly at his temples. He was in need of a shave and a set of fresh clothes; he looked as if he’d been living in his period wear for a week or more – – baggy tennis shorts and sneakers, a tourist’s shirt from some place like Hawaii beneath a leather Navy flyer’s jacket. His breath smelled of hard liquor and dirty smoke; he was physically fit and sharp, as Jim could see, but slovenly when he once was kind of fierce about the impression he made. But the strangest thing, and Jim hoped he’d have a moment to ask about it flat out, were the glasses he was wearing. Jim assumed they were 1960s prescription lenses but even in the subdued lighting of the cramped bridge, those lenses were pitch black. Sunglasses? Maybe. But strongly rimmed with steel wire and with side pieces that kept his eyes completely sealed from any light.

Still, Jim knew Mitch was staring at him as he stopped in front of him.

“Well,” Gary said in reply to Jim’s observational, opinionated question, asked almost – – almost – – in friendly jest. “There’s something Thirty-One’s taught me, Jim…. Something I never thought really possible….”

Jim tried not to seem to be taking Gary seriously…. failed. A small shrug, a smaller shake of his head escaped him.

“If you’re smart… really smart, you learn it’s possible to change.”

The Gary Mitchell Jim knew had the kind of leadership qualities that got his hands dirty, that held the team together whether that involved sticking around for last call or kicking ass and taking names. But he didn’t have the right stuff, not the way Jim did – bred in the bone to be master and commander. Jim remembered Mitch telling him he’d happily graduate the Academy with Lieutenant’s stripes for life, shuttle piloting the Federation brass to Earth-orbiting Base One as long as he made it back to the beach while surf tide was up. Like Jim, he’d spent an interminable youth in middle America but Gary, then, was no trouble-maker for practical gambling reasons; he didn’t see the payout in drawing too much attention too early and always just did enough, in the sciences mainly, and some basic athletics – track and football, he was a decent cornerback – to receive scholarship offers from a couple of notable colleges geared for Earth-based research companies squabbling over starship computer core contracts. He enlisted in Starfleet largely to avoid making any sort of hardball decision and only partly out of respect for his paternal grandmother who’d become a grade officer without traveling any further than Epsilon One Comm at the edge of the system and had briefly served with Jonathan Archer himself, albeit as his bosun’s mate’s yeoman.

But when Gary arrived on the west coast, the landlubber was overwhelmed by the Pacific. Starfleet Cadet Mitchell made grades that caught a few supervisors’ eyes but by then he’d already slipped into what came easiest for him – doing just enough to succeed – as he embraced the life he felt meant for. A beach bum whose natural athleticism turned him into the hottest amateur surfer anyone at Fleet, Academy or Command, had ever seen. He’d remain a surfer for as long as Jim had known him, turning down sponsorship to turn pro as well as Olympian prospects on and off Earth, completing his freshman and sophomore Academy years out of both rivalry and loyalty to Cadet Kirk and the eerily iron will of the girlfriend he’d grabbed the moment he first saw her laying on the sand his first time on the beach.

Elizabeth Dehner was all arms and legs and breasts, with sharply cut high cheekbones and, when she allowed it, a wide Long Beach smile. She also had a mind and perceptive sense like a phaser set at its sharpest cutting beam. She even bore the nickname – “Hot Lips” – freshman Cadet Jim Kirk had laid on her his third night in Frisco with pride and irony though she’d offer no other explanation save that the new Cadet, a hyper-intelligent small-timer, was, in her appraisal, a looker, certainly, and one carrying too much to prove for a mortal being.

Despite a campus tomcat reputation next in line only to Jim that Liz actually allowed Gary to maintain as a social experiment – she was an Academy junior cadet about to graduate the medical sciences branch, psychiatry – the fact was, and whenever Liz pulled back his scalp and made the cool-tempered diagnosis he’d openly laugh at her, but Gary Mitchell was driven by devotion. An unusual devotion in that it was spread with his laid back sense of equality and equanimity across everything, and anyone he privately felt deeply about. Liz found it strangely intriguing that the vapors of salt water filling his lungs as the red sun was swallowed by clouds and horizon on his last tube of the day meant as much to “Mitch” as Gary’s genuine interest in her latest draft proposal for her Academy Medical Masters dissertation, a complex study, “slide rule” stuff Gary called it Jim remembered, a comparison of fresh-minted officer’s reactions to high stress, life or death situations in the rumored five year deep space agenda Starfleet was developing, as opposed to the same officers scores as cadets in psych based tests for command positions, like the Kobayashi Maru.
Jim never had any more time for Liz Dehner’s ideas of what made Gary Mitchell tick any more than Gary himself but that never prevented him from winding her up whenever the three of them would get together for drinks, sending her through a psycho-wormhole of her own making and emerging from the double talk aware that Kirk had played her again, leaving her to swear how deeply the farm boy had it coming.

Fact was, though Jim was popular at the the Academy, and equally disdained by those whom he couldn’t charm and felt he coasted on the name of a martyr’d hero-father as well as the patronage of the Fleet’s most storied active Captain, he had few close, genuine friends. There was Bones, of course, who, from the start, Jim recognized as his good conscience even if wrapped in the guise of a hard drinking grouse. There were a couple of others who, like Jim, would settle for no less than the Chair; affable Ben Finney, too affable, really, doomed Dave Moss, and the looker from Maine, Cat Dunbar, whose angry desperate confusion was the last familiar thing registering in Jim’s brain from just before leaving the twenty-third century, twenty-two-sixty-one, and being swallowed by the rolling fog… of Time.

And there was “Mitch,” with whom Jim agreed they could be posted on opposite ends of known space for years long, mind-twisting challenges and be able to, when bumping into each other back at Hammerhead’s beach-side bar floating off-shore at Bimini, pick up their argument mid-sentence about the over rated quarterback for the Patriots Proxima Achilles-based farm team. They’d gone drinking at Hammerhead’s hours after their final written Tac-section exams their junior year with quarterly limited field assignments waiting days away until break. Mitch had just wanted to bust Jim’s balls for his novice skills at riding rips, impressing the lovlies on the beach, but Jim, despite the icy booze, got serious. Captain Steve Garrovick of the front liner Constitution-class Farragut had suggested his Security Chief take Jim on as her aide-de-camp for his first duty call, a prodigious assignment that would likely see landing party command. Gary Mitchell had lobbied for and got the relief navigator of the Van Allen-class, USS Wright, plotting low warp milk runs transporting settlement gear to middle distance colonies.

Jim might have assumed this was Gary’s typical idea of a joke, his inside out sense of sarcasm, abetted by Liz who’d left a recorded comm pic the night before, warning Jim in her best low tones that Mitch had made decisions about his future he’d find as difficult as she had. But then and there, in Hammerhead’s, Gary’s eyes told Jim just how serious he was.

Gary’s eyes revealed everything if you watched him closely, knew him well. A rare burst of showy anger, a notable turn of the profane and you could see it in his high schooler’s stare, his nearly blank dark eyes letting you know exactly what he thought or felt. And Jim’s attempt to convince him that he could get him aboard the Farragut as a shuttle driver with, maybe, third tier relief duty at helm was met with that stare and Kirk could read the kind thankfulness there – and the dismissal, his certainty of choice.

Kirk was never that surprised that Gary was reported AWOL two weeks after the Wright had shipped out. It was stranger that Starfleet kept his record active when even Kirk’s limited inquiry made it obvious that he’d likely been killed by native ascetics on Tanis for his Earthly vices on R and R. Jim was equally taken aback by Liz Dehner’s cool reaction to her lover’s disappearance. Six months later she attended a memorial with Jim but barely spoke outside of everyday Starfleet affairs and took the first opportunity to complete her Doctorate observing the crew of the USS Saratoga.

Now that it was presumably clear Mitchell had been drawn in, during that second year at the Academy, to serve Section Thirty-One, or some connected branch, a Junior League of Security-talented cadets perhaps, Jim gathered up another regret about the current circumstances of his mission and its time constraints: he wouldn’t be able to ask the man for an explanation, much less tell him how he missed fulfilling his promise to have him aboard his first significant command– –

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“Mister Kirk, I understand you have some experience steering unusual ships in unfamiliar places,” Mitchell said for the benefit of the sub’s crew but Jim didn’t bother hiding the half-smile that came with a nod. He’d long had a Captain’s ability to judge another Commander’s ability to maintain self-control while, as they still called it, “putting’ on The Ritz” and he didn’t think Mitchell had a tactical leader’s thinking down. “You’ve got a better suggestion on how to pull our asses out of this and get you on your way?”

“Feinting to the surface– Okay, sure- -” Jim, though standing away from the Command Group at the Map Table, had made a silent count of every wrong choice their escape plan entailed. “But an elliptical course, even at top speed, will take too long and their Captain likely knows these waters.”

Mitchell nodded his consideration and even with eyes shaded by those odd dark prescription lenses, Jim recognized the look Gary leveled on him.
Kirk was already pushing past the supra-agents, Robert and Maria, who crowded back in around Jim as he pulled away and discarded one plastic map from the command table after another… “No– No– N–Yes! This here, take a look here, Mister Mitchell– What have you got there–?”

“A grease pencil.”

“Here gimme–” Jim started drawing across the slick sheet what was, in his thinking, a glide path. His gaze swept over the officers around him, peering in to see what Kirk was sketching out. He picked out the guy he hoped had the skill to pull off his plan – –

“You, you’re the navigator? Pay very close attention and do exactly what I tell you. We got one shot at this.”

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